- Daybreak Express (D. A. Pennebaker, 1953, 5:19) [watch video]
This is a documentary without the traditional devices of interviews and cutaways. Two years before The Third Ave. El that ran from the Bronx to City Hall was demolished in 1955, documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker made this short while riding the train, he wrote, “I wanted to make a film about this filthy, noisy train and its packed-in passengers that would look beautiful, like the New York City paintings of John Sloan.”
- Junkopia (Chris Marker, 1981, 6:21) [watch video]
Codirected by Frank Simeone and John Chapman, Junkopia was filmed at the Emeryville Mudflats outside of San Francisco while Chris Marker was shooting the Vertigo sections of Sans Soleil. Marker documents, in his indomitable manner, the works left behind by unidentified artists, more notes on this film are available.
- iSolation (Daniel Hume, 2012, 5:07) [watch video]
An exploration of isolation amongst people living in an urban center. Shot with an iPhone 4S, edited in Premiere Pro, color grading was done using Magic Bullet Looks. I find the music heavy-handed, which detracts from my experience, but I chose it as an example because I saw some interesting connections between it and Daybreak Express.
- The Cloud Juicer (Jon Kasbe and Joshua Davis, 2012, 2:44) [watch video]
A lushly shot profile of Richard Heinichen, the first licensed bottler of rainwater in the U.S.
- Coffee Branch iPhone Documentary (Stephen de Villiers, 2012, 3:00) [watch video]
A portrait of a person and their place of work shot entirely on an iPhone and to good effect, I like the delightful variety of shots, angles; the great composition; the many intimate close-ups; the rhythm and pacing of the editing; and the focus on one person, one place, one idea, which is a good approach for making a successful micro-doc. It works well within the limits of the smartphone, especially in terms of shooting interviews close-up for better sound.
- Justin Boyd: Sound and Time (Mark and Angela Walley, 2013, 8:39) [watch video]
One of my favorite micro-documentaries, a particularly good example of a short documentary profile with the perfect balance between engaging b-roll and well-shot interview footage. This documentary brings together gentle camerawork, good editing, and excellent sound design to tell the story of Justin Boyd, Department Chair of Sculpture and Integrated Media at Southwest School of Art. We learn about his personal connection with sound and how he uses it to create works of art.
- Maricela Montoy-Wilson, 1st Grade Teacher (Micro-Documentaries, 2011, 3:18) [watch video]
Portrays the impact of a charter school through the story of one teacher, presenting the rewards and challenges of her work.
- marisa dipaola: the octopus’s garden (David Tamés, 2010, 1:57) [watch video]
One of the eleven micro-documentaries that make up Documenting Bumpkin, a series of glimpses that I produced into the artists and site-specific works at the 2010 Bumpkin Island Art Encampment in the Boston Harbor Islands.
- Meet Connie (Micro-Documentaries, 2013, 3:18) [watch video]
A particularly strong example of a sponsored, issue-oriented micro-doc that takes on a large, complex problem told through the story of one person and what’s made a difference in their life. An example of the how effective it can be in a short work to focus on one protagonist and one theme, focusing primarily on personal experience, through which you understand the larger context.
- Inocente (Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, 2013, 2:13, excerpt) [watch video]
This trailer for the documentary short of the same name that won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short hangs together well as a short advocacy piece. Notice how the visuals in every frame support the storytelling. The direct address is particularly effective in this video. Another really good example of how effective it can be in a short work to focus on one protagonist and one theme, focusing primarily on personal experience, through which you understand the larger context.
- William Bynum – Hope Credit Union (Micro-Documentaries, 2013, 2:25) [watch video]
Celebrates the founder of Hope Enterprise Corporation, a leading Community Development Financial Institution.
- A Girl like Me (Kiri Davis, 2006, 7:15) [watch video]
This video received a lot of press attention when it was released, demonstrating the power of micro-docs as a catalyst for conversation, winner of the Diversity Award at the 6th Annual Media That Matters film festival and shown on HBO, for more on this film see “Documentary, studies renew debate about skin color’s impact,” by L.A. Johnson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 26, 2006, and the Wikipedia article.